My journey with 500 began eight years ago as a startup founder in Batch 3. At the time, 500 was a fledgling early stage investor just beginning to establish itself in Silicon Valley. 500 and its team of underdogs were making a name for themselves as scrappy investors willing to take risks in areas they believed other VCs overlooked, and their boldness skyrocketed them into national recognition. I was excited to join the ride.
Over the next eight years, I grew with 500 as we scaled from a small group of passionate investors to the array of global-minded investors we are today. In 2013, I became an entrepreneur-in-residence and helped run the accelerator batches when 500 expanded to San Francisco. When our team decided to build toward our radical global strategy, I raised my hand to volunteer on the ground, founding 500’s Korea fund in 2015. As my career grew, so did my passion for 500’s mission.
What we believe sets 500 apart is our mission—to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. In the exclusive, Silicon Valley-centric world of VC, we strove to back diverse entrepreneurs around the world and help develop emerging ecosystems that were brimming with untapped potential. The fact that we invested in many international companies invited a healthy amount of skepticism in the early days. Today, our global portfolio and team have become one of our greatest strengths.
We’re excited to embrace that strength as the foundation of 500’s strategy going forward, and continue our mission to empower the greatest entrepreneurs around the world.
Our Next Chapter
Since 2010, 500’s portfolio has grown to over 2,200 companies spanning 74 countries. Earlier this year, we were recognized as the #1 most active VC in the world for 2018, beating other industry leaders by over 50% in global deal count. Our seed accelerator program is now one of the most recognized programs in the world. We’ve also scaled our investment operations worldwide, growing from a single US-centric fund to 19 funds around the world, with both global and regional focus in markets including Southeast Asia, Latin America, MENA, and more.
In reflecting upon the strong global foundation that has been built over the last 8 years, our next chapter aims to focus on global synchronization and coordinated resource deployment. We foresee two global trends that will define early stage investing for the next decade:
Value creation across the world
- The next generation of consumers are growing up into a truly borderless digital consumer market. Companies like TikTok have proven that consumers, both in the US and in the rest of the world, are more open to foreign platforms than ever before. This will lead to significant changes in the template of a successful early stage startup; changes we believe will heavily favor globally-minded VCs, like 500, that possess strong intelligence in local markets.
- In parallel, we are now seeing a growing number of Silicon Valley founders starting companies with a global audience in mind from day one, similar to founders around the world. While the demand is currently being driven by steadily increasing domestic awareness of the global opportunity, we believe this will escalate into a large-scale fear of missing out on non-US markets within the next few years.
As the rest of the world leans into globalization, we believe 500 has two key advantages:
Early entrance into growing markets
- Since the early days of 500, we invested in companies from outside of the US on the premise that great companies existed in all corners of the world. We doubled down on this bet through our thematic funds, starting with 500 Luchadores in 2013 and 500 Durians in 2014. To date, we’ve invested out of 14 thematic funds across the world with the help of our global partners. These early bets have helped 500 establish strong brand recognition in emerging markets, such as Latin America, MENA, Southeast Asia, and East Asia that are now maturing into thriving ecosystems.
Scale and flexibility
- We realized early on that we needed to partner with local stakeholders to reach the scale required to be a truly global VC. Thanks to our early groundwork partnering with governments, multinational corporations, and regional influencers, we’ve built the infrastructure required to discover and back founders, cultivate ecosystems, and deploy capital globally.
Now, more than ever before, 500 has an opportunity to redefine early stage investing as we enter a new, unprecedented era of global early stage value creation. We’re looking forward to sharing several exciting initiatives throughout the course of 2019 and beyond. As we embark on our next chapter, I’m honored to take on this new role at 500 and help lead 500 alongside Christine and the rest of the team. We’ve accomplished a lot in just 9 years, but we’re just getting started.
Note: Information on number of funds and investments is approximated as of 12/31/2018 across the 500 Startups’ group and includes investments made by all the 500 Startups’ family of funds.
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